With almost a season-like quality to it, the tech industry follows a cycle. New products are released in late summer, research and development throughout fall and winter, and spring and summer is all about hype. So what is the hype medium of choice? Giant conferences.
Since the release of the original iPhone in 2007, tech conferences have been the fuel for the application developer fire. Smartphones existed before the iPhone. However, the game changer was third party app developers. Twitter, Evernote, Swype — these and many more smartphone must-haves started as small-scale apps, and the next thumb-powered wonder app might be generated because companies like Google and Apple piqued programmers at a conference.
Conferences such as South by Southwest are legendary for launching Twitter and Foursquare, but as Apple’s recent developer conference shows, these massive tech venues might also be an app’s downfall. Apple used its conference to promote the next iteration of its mobile operating system, iOS. The platform will soon be endowed with baked-in, self-destructing messaging and dirt cheap cloud storage; good news for iPhone users, bad news for Snapchat and Dropbox. The lesson being mobile can be a gold mine for developers, but find too much success and the platform that made you rich might usurp your customer base.
Tech conferences tend to provide captive audiences ready and willing to adopt new innovations. However, sometimes those innovations fall flat. Three years ago, Google used its summer developer conference to release its flagship Nexus tablet and an entertainment set-top gadget, the Nexus Q. The tablet line is still alive and selling relatively well, but the Q? Dead on arrival. Both developers and consumers were confounded by its nebulous purpose forcing Google to eventually give it away for free before ultimately discontinuing it.
Chances are, if you waited with bated breath for news from Apple’s developer conference a few weeks ago, you walked away a little bored and a little confused. Don’t worry, these events aren’t for you, the programmers who attended the conference and understood the message will make sure your next iPhone is everything you want it to be. CV
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.